World leaders are preparing for December’s big climate conference in Copenhagen; the real question is: who is going to lead? Conventional wisdom indicates that climate change by definition is a global problem and will require a global response. If global emissions must be cut by over 80% by 2050, then everyone is simply going to have to tighten their belts, embrace new technologies, and innovate so we can do more with less. But many developing countries, whose emissions are rising, are not in a position to easily reduce their emissions and have other pressing issues as well having to do with poverty, education, human rights, and clean water. So what is the solution? Let developing countries continue to pollute, focus on their people and hope that one day they will be able to finally reduce their emissions? Or do developed nations feel an obligation to help the nations that don’t want to choose between economic and social development and reducing emissions? The nuance to this argument comes from the fact that historically countries with the highest carbon dioxide emissions grew the fastest and were able to offer the best quality of life to their citizens. Click here to see emissions trends for countries from all over the world and you will see that the prosperous ones, the ones with some of the highest quality of life now, have been spewing thousands if not millions of metric tons of CO2 into the air for a long time. Since CO2 sticks around in the atmosphere for a long time, the increased emissions associated with producing those arguably sweet US cars in the past are probably still in the atmosphere. Because of these historical emissions from developed nations, groups all over the world, including the World Bank, are asking for the countries that have been most responsible for climate change to take charge of the fight to stop it.
Developing countries are disproportionately affected by climate change — a crisis that is not of their making and for which they are the least prepared. For that reason, an equitable deal in Copenhagen is vitally important, said World Bank president Robert Zoellick.
The solution that is fleshed out in Copenhagen will hopefully strike a balance between development and the clean energy revolution. But regardless of where the rest of the world stands, those with the means must commit to reducing emissions in a real and enforceable way. We didn’t get to the moon by asking the rest of the world to take an equal stake in the action. We got to the moon through stubborn determination – now our world is richer with a better understanding of the universe and life in general (with a whole slew of useful inventions to boot)! It is time to fight climate change with the same passion that we used to get a man on the moon. Want something that you can do today to fight climate change and support communities in developing countries? Check out Live Climate, where you can do both with one donation.